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IP Doctor – do you need help?

Dids MacDonald, CEO of Anti-Copying in Design (ACID), lends a helping hand with intellectual property (IP) issues

Often, some of the most difficult intellectual property (IP) business issues that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face can have the very simplest of solutions. Clarity is essential when dealing with intellectual property issues because, like the ownership of physical property, there are rules about ownership and permission for use by third parties. It is easy to cross boundaries and make mistakes without knowing, so ACID, via one of its ACID-accredited law firms, McDaniel & Co, has created a series of frequently asked questions and answers and provided a simple set of guidelines:

Q: I've recently discovered that the print manufacturer that I use to print my designs has been selling seconds out the back door. Are they allowed to do this?
A: It depends on what your contract says because some manufacturers ask if they can do this. If you don't have one then the answer is probably no, as they will only have permission from you to reproduce your design for the number of items you have ordered from them. Anything else is unauthorised by you and is therefore a counterfeit.

Q: I want to use a stock image as a reference for a drawing; do I have to buy the image in order to do this?
A: It depends what you mean by reference. Usually a stock image is available for reproduction in its actual form as long as you pay the fee. The licence they give you usually doesn't allow for adaptations so you probably shouldn't do this at all unless the license allows that to happen.

Q: I want to buy a stock image and use it as part of a design and print it onto 100,000 mugs; can I do this?
A: You need to look at the terms of the purchase of the stock image. They usually have a varying price depending on how many times you want to reproduce the image; so, the more reproductions you want the higher the cost is. Check the terms with the stock library.

Q: The online retailer that stocks my products has added Pinterest 'Pin it' buttons next to my products. Are they allowed to do this if I do not want my images added to Pinterest?
A: You need to make your retailer aware that you don't want this to happen and ask them to withdraw the images from Pinterest.

Q: I have been buying vintage biscuit tins and cutting them up to make jewellery; do I need permission to do this?
A: No, you don't need permission as long as the biscuit tins have been lawfully acquired. The tin itself is yours if you have lawfully acquired it and you can do what you want with it. The tin itself is a piece of property, which just like a painting, is yours to keep. What you can't do is take the images from the tin and reproduce them without permission unless the tin is very old and the images are out of copyright.

Q: If I commission someone to create something for me, do I own the rights to it?
A: When something is created, unregistered rights such as copyright, UK unregistered design right and European Community unregistered design right may subsist in that particular design. These rights may subsist individually, or they may all subsist together, depending on the nature of the work created. The default position under the legislation is that the creator of the work, not the commissioner, will be the owner of any copyrights and European Community unregistered design right, whereas the commissioner, and not the author, will be the owner of UK unregistered design right. Therefore, different people could own different rights in the same work, with each of those rights having a different scope and duration. The situation is further complicated in that, generally, if you commission the creation of something for a particular purpose, then an implied licence will arise in your favour to use the work for that purpose. However, determining the scope of any implied licence can often be difficult and has led to much litigation.In summary of the above, unless the ownership of rights is dealt with expressly by the parties through a written agreement (at a later date a disagreement may arise over the use of that work), enlisting the help of lawyers and the courts to sort it out will be expensive. Designers therefore should consider using a freelance designer generic agreement to ensure the ownership of rights is dealt with expressly at the outset, so everyone is clear of the position.

IP online - what are the rules?
The Alliance for Intellectual Property has created a safe and reliable guide to legal digital services that can be used in either you professional or private life. So, if you are unsure where to find an e-book or film to download, a music album or video game to stream, catch-up on TV, or where to watch popular sporting events, The Content Map will help you access legal content online. The Content Map provides a comprehensive list of legitimate websites and, in most instances, by clicking on the website's icon, even links you directly to the site or service. Visit www.thecontentmap.com. According to the industry representative sponsors, "The Content Map is designed to showcase the wealth of legal services available to consumers, across the film and TV, e-books, music, games and sports sectors. The website features a jargon busting FAQ section, which clarifies the sometimes technical and confusing terminology that is used online. The Content Map has been created to help teachers, parents and other consumers know which sites are legal. The creation of a central hub is a conduit for consumers to ensure that they will be accessing content legally."

For further information, visit the ACID website, www.acid.uk.com

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